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The Paper Chase: Now You Are One of Us

The Paper Chase: Now You Are One of Us

Label:Kill Rock Stars
Release Date:2006

By Bret McCabe | Posted 6/14/2006

If the Paper Chase’s new Now You Are One of Us doesn’t provide the same sinus-clearing whack as 2004’s God Bless Your Black Heart, it’s only because One finely tunes Bless’ great creative leap forward. Returning is the Pynchonian paranoia interwoven by bandleader John Congleton’s screaming guitar peals and Sean Kirkpatrick’s anxious piano lines, grizzly bear bassist Bobby Weaver’s brooding throb, and the death-metal propulsion of drummer Aryn Dalton’s annihilation blasts. Back, too, is the fablelike storytelling of Congleton’s lyrics, unified—but barely—by broken-mirror narrative shards and an S&M moral calculus. The lyrical bridge to opening track “We Know Where You Sleep” is a domineering “You will drop on all fours/ Get down show me what you’re good for” and ends in the whip-cracking “You pretty little thing, I’m throwing you over my bony knee.” And Congleton once again exacts a Kubrickian control over the album’s pace, seamlessly sequencing together an ornate nightmare from which it’s impossible to escape.

What’s fresh is a spacious command of symphonic atmospherics and practically baroque arrangements. Scissors slicing through air strafe the creeping piano intro to “We Know Where You Sleep,” and a blood-curdling scream cues the chorus. A churchlike choir of female voices announces the arrival of the cannibalistic “Wait Until I Get My Hands on You.” Kirkpatrick’s jittery piano sculpts the entire contrapuntal melodic motif to the infectiously catchy “You’re One of Them, Aren’t You?,” which would sound like a jaunty Gilbert and Sullivan ditty did it not contain the line “so go on and scream all you want ’cause that only excites me.”

Better still are standout tracks “The Kids Will Grow Up to Be Assholes” and “You Will Never Take Me Alive.” The former shifts through three differently chaotic parts, welded together only by Congleton’s pinched-nerve voice, before sliding into its titular admonishment. The latter is, quite simply, something you’d expect from Michael Nyman, not a mistakenly labeled emo band. The song slowly swells into swirls of layered, feverish strings over which Congleton speak-creaks yet another scream-of-consciousness horror story, culminating in a defiant “we will show this cruel world we were here.” Pretentiously arty to be sure, but the sheer attention to details this band puts into everything it does—just try to look away from that cover image—scratches an itch for unabashedly ambitious rock that often goes far too long without such care.

E-mail Bret McCabe

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